There seem to be a number of tiers for tight ends in this draft. Austin Hooper out of Stanford is in the third one, which doesn’t promise a very early pick, but at least he has teams looking into him. So far it’s been the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears and the Tennessee Titans.
Hooper needed just two seasons with Stanford to understand it’s time for him to leave. He did well as a freshman with 499 yards and two touchdowns, earning him Freshman All-American and second-team All-Pac-12 honors. In 2015 he did even better with 438 receptions and six touchdown catches while the Cardinal took the Pac-12 title and the Rose Bowl. Hooper got his share of individual honors like Mackey Award finalist, third-team AP All-American, first-team All-Pac-12.
So how is it looking for him in terms of being a good NFL player? Right now teams probably view him as more of a tight end who plays in wider position. He’s quick on his feet and has excellent hands, but the problem for him is deceiving linebackers and corners with his route running. Think Jason Witten: No matter how many people know it’s going to be him on third down, he somehow finds himself open on third down for the catch. Right now, Hooper doesn’t have that.
But he’s a good blocker, or at least a willing one, which means he’ll be able to play along the offensive line as well. He’s not looking like a tight end who is going to have a long, productive career right away, but few tight ends do. Think of Tyler Eifert who became a lot more than before last season. Hooper has that kind of potential (although he’s being compared to Coby Fleener), only needs the right teams and to improve on a couple of major flaws in his game in order to make it.